This is the next post in a series of articles discussing separate maintenance, or legal separation, in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous articles discussed the consequences of separate maintenance. The Court resolves the same issues when a couple legally separates, as it does when couples divorce. Separate maintenance cases resolve child custody issues, child support, spousal support, and the division of marital assets and debts. The orders are final and binding on both parties. As with other Court orders, noncompliance with a separate maintenance order can result in enforcement actions and contempt of court charges. It is important to make every effort to comply with such orders and consult with an attorney if an order needs to be revised or enforced. In this article, I will discuss the process for obtaining a legal separation. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
The process involved in a separate maintenance case is very similar to a divorce. The large majority of couples who wish to legally separate agree to the terms of their separation in advance. When this is the case, the parties file a Joint Petition for Separate Maintenance with the court. The petition must include their agreements on all relevant issues, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division. An incomplete filing may not be approved by the Court. Failing to include a complete list of marital property or debts may leave the division of such items unresolved. Similar to an uncontested divorce, obtaining a legal separation when the parties agree on all terms can be less expensive and faster than a contested process. It is important to remember, however, that the Court’s order will be permanent (unless the parties revoke or amend it through the legal system) and can have significant financial consequences. Consulting with an experienced family attorney before filing a Joint Petition can be extremely beneficial to both parties.
If the couple does not agree about how they will handle family or financial matters during the separate maintenance, the process will proceed much like a contested divorce. One person, the plaintiff, will file a Complaint for Separate Maintenance with the Court. The other party, the defendant, must be served with the Complaint. They will have the opportunity to file an Answer and, if needed, a Counterclaim within twenty-one days. If the defendant does not file an Answer, the plaintiff can ask the Court to issue a default judgment and final decree. If an Answer is filed, the Court will schedule an initial hearing within ninety days. If necessary, the parties can request temporary custody or support orders while the case is pending. If custody issues are involved, the Court may require that the couple attend mediation to attempt to resolve such matters. To the extent that the individuals cannot resolve their differences through settlement negotiations, a trial may be held, at which each side can present evidence in support of their respective positions to the Judge. Ultimately, the Court will issue a final decree containing the separate maintenance order.
Separate maintenance cases can become just as contentious as divorce cases. With so much at stake, it is imperative to retain an experienced divorce lawyer to represent your interests. I take pride in handling my client’s cases with the respect, attention, and the expertise they deserve. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak to a Las Vegas attorney.